Vikings fall to Leland in first home game of the season

In the much anticipated first home game of the season, the Palo Alto High School varsity football team (0-2) suffered its second loss, 21-35, against the Leland Chargers (1-1) on Friday night at home.

Despite the Viking’s high expectations coming into the first home game and resilient efforts to score in the second half, they were unable to overtake the Chargers. According to Chargers Head Coach Kelly King Jr., the Leland varsity football team worked hard in preparation for this game after a major loss last week.

“We knew we were playing against a great team in Palo Alto, they’re a perennial playoff team, they’re really well coached,” King said. “So we really focused on being disciplined this week, really executing with game plan, especially on defense. We struggled last week, but I thought we played better this week. We just went back to the fundamentals and really focused on our assignments.”

The Chargers dominated the first half of the game, capitalizing on interceptions, turnovers, and Viking penalties to secure a 0-14 lead. 

The Vikings struggled after a throw from junior quarterback Declan Packer resulted in an interception and touchdown by Leland senior cornerback Eshaan Adusumall. 

Following halftime, the Vikings continued to struggle when they fumbled on the Leland kickoff at the start of the third quarter, allowing the Chargers to score again. 

However, after a series of rushes and passes by the Vikings in the early third quarter, Packer threw a high lob pass to junior wide receiver Jason Auzenne for a 13-yard touchdown, bringing the score to 7-21. 

Following the Vikings touchdown, junior running back Jeremiah Madrigal gained a total of 48 yards in the span of two downs for another Vikings touchdown in the final minute of the third quarter. 

Viking Head Coach David DeGeronimo said despite the score deficit in the first half of the game, the Vikings came together during the third quarter after his halftime speech to the players.

“We basically talked to each other about trusting each other,” DeGeronimo said. “We talked about understanding that we have a new system, on offense, a new system on defense, and just trusting each other and playing as a team playing as a team, and not individually.”

According to Madrigal, the Viking’s spirits allowed them to make a comeback during the second half.

“Coach [DeGeronimo] wanted us to trust each other, we wanted to trust the game plan and trust what he had for the second half,” Madrigal said. “We just [have] to play hard how we played in the second half. You got to keep doing that the whole game.”

The Vikings continued to show confidence on the field at the beginning of the fourth quarter and were able to score another touchdown to tie the game, 21-21, after a series of running plays by Madrigal and senior running back Jack Newman.

However, Leland slowly regained control on the field, and a well-executed pass from Leland freshman quarterback Brandon Mann to Adusumall resulted in a 65-yard touchdown.

A final blow to the Vikings occurred in the final minutes of the game when Packer’s pass was intercepted by Leland senior linebacker Miles Roberts and returned for yet another Leland touchdown, bringing the final score to 21-35.  

Junior wide receiver Jason Auzenne said the lack of experience with the new Viking team was a major factor for their loss.

“We need to learn just how to work as a team,” Auzenne said. “We can’t be selfish with the ball. We got to be able to kind of execute and you [have] to know your assignment. And we all know what to do so we can be undefeated every time, but we just gotta figure out what we need to do.”   

According to King, the Chargers were not expecting a perfect game because of the team’s young starting lineup.

“We’re young, we got a freshman quarterback, we have sophomore lineman,” King said. “We just need to get in there and get the reps. Obviously, execution is gonna be key. If we eliminate mistakes and just put one foot in front of the other and keep playing, I think we’ll be okay.”

DeGeronimo said that although Viking’s mistakes gave way to an unexpected defeat, he remains hopeful for the future. 

“I thought we let this one get away from us,” DeGeronimo said. “I think this was a very winnable game for us. You can’t make as many mistakes as we did and expect to win. We had too many turnovers, [and] too many penalties. We gave up 14 points on turnovers. So you can’t do that. We’ll just get better, get after it, and fix the mistakes for next week.” 

The Vikings will play at 7 p.m. Friday against the Gunn Titans (0-2) at Gunn.